'Our lives had much in common' - Neymar opens up on how he was impacted by Bryant's death

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar said he was deeply affected by the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

The NBA legend, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were tragically killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash in January in Calabasas, California.

Neymar paid tribute to Bryant at the time, wearing a jersey in honour of the five-time NBA champion, while he dedicated a goal to the 2008 NBA MVP by holding up two fingers on one hand and four on the other – referencing the famous number 24 – in a Ligue 1 victory over Lille in February.

The two had met several times over the years, with Bryant frequently stating his passion for the beautiful game and his favourite teams, AC Milan and Barcelona. 

Following his tragic passing, Neymar was one of many footballers to come out and discuss the impact of Bryant, with Romelu Lukaku, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos among those to express their grief.

Recalling Bryant's death, Neymar told Vogue Men Arabia: "His death affected me a lot because our lives had much in common.

"I met Kobe personally and the times he came to Paris. When you meet the person behind the athlete, it creates a different relationship and with Kobe, it was very special. Sports and society lost a great guy."

Neymar, who continues to be linked with a return to former club Barcelona, has been hampered by injuries since joining PSG in a world-record €222 million transfer in 2017.

Those injuries have limited the winger to just 22 appearances this season, with the Brazilian having scored 18 in all competitions.

PSG sit atop Ligue 1 as the league is suspended to the coronavirus outbreak, but Neymar admitted that missing so much of this season and last season has impacted him mentally.

"There is nothing worse for a professional athlete than an injury," the Brazilian forward added.

"I really suffered with injuries these last two seasons and I had many moments of questioning myself.

"Half of the success of an athlete is the mind. If the mind is good, the game flows more naturally."